The Microbiological Havoc of the Anthropocene

From Vibrio to E. coli, what a warmer planet means for food safety.

In the summer of 2004, many passengers traveling aboard the Spirit of Columbia, a 143-foot cruise ship in Alaska's Prince William Sound, unexpectedly came down with intense bouts of nausea, vomiting, and—it got pretty gross—explosive, watery diarrhea. Seasickness is one thing. This was much worse. According to a study later published in the New England Medical Journal, epidemiologists traced the cause to a disease found in raw oysters, Vibrio parahaemolyticus. It was an unprecedented outbreak; the microbe had never been seen that far north.

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